Start Competing: Chaos Knights Tactics

Additional author: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Overview

Do you want to field some of the biggest, baddest robot titans in the galaxy? Do you adore the idea of starting an army that only has 6 models to assemble and paint? Have you always felt jealous of Imperial players’ access to Knights and their stratagems and relics and stupid Castellan Knights and you loathe them and their smug faces and secretly plot their dooms and the downfall of their whole corrupt, decaying Imperium at the hands of terrible, fickle Chaos gods? Well then Chaos Knights may be the army for you!

As with the rest of these articles, the idea is not to give an exhaustive review of every unit and option. Instead, we’ll cover each section with a general discussion of the good units, relics and stratagems, point out any traps, and then discuss how these pieces fit into a competitive army. This is primarily a review of the units in the Chaos Knights codex, but we’ll also discuss how Chaos Knights fit into larger Chaos armies.

Strengths

  • Extremely powerful faction traits
  • A variety of Knight builds for both melee and shooting to suit different play styles
  • Access to some incredibly powerful relics that can counter certain strategies very well
  • Knights are still difficult to take down and deal with if you haven’t planned for them
  • Melee Chaos Knights can mulch pretty much anything in the game

Weaknesses

  • Small unit numbers for a pure faction – Chaos Knights will usually top out at 5-6 models when you’re running monofaction
  • Underwhelming Warlord traits, particularly when compared to Imperial Knights
  • Single Knights are less powerful than their Imperial counterparts
  • It’s harder for Chaos to generate CP on the level of Imperials – Red Corsairs are the most reliable method
  • Pretty much every army you’ll come across has a plan to take down Knights
  • Little-to-no synergy with the rest of the Chaos faction

N.B. The eagle-eyed among you will notice that some of the content of this guide is reproduced from our codex review. While we’ve updated our previous thoughts where relevant, plenty of what we said then is still true, and we’ve merged it in here.

Competitive Rating

Medium-low as a stand alone codex, Medium as part of Chaos soup

After more than a year of Knight dominance leading to a major nerf to the Knight Castellan, Games Workshop appeared to have learned its lesson with the Chaos Knights book, giving us a more reasonable, balanced Codex that doesn’t make the same mistakes as the Imperial book and plays it cautious in many respects. This, combined with the fact that every army is built with the idea that it might have to take down a Knight or two (or a Repulsor) in mind means that Chaos Knights have walked right into the middle of a meta aligned against them. They share all of the Imperial Knights’ weaknesses as a standalone army, and as support for a Chaos Soup list lack some of the key benefits and synergies that make a single Imperial Knight so effective. As a result, they net out weaker than their Imperial counterparts, and Chaos soup lists don’t seem to have much of a place for them right now, relying more heavily on either Daemons, Lords Discordant, or Forge World Dreadnoughts for success (or all three).

Special Rules

Chaos Knights get several faction special rules. Some are identical to Imperial Knights, while others stand out more specifically.

Traitoris Lances

Just like Imperial Knights, Chaos Knights get a varying amount of CP from the Superheavy detachment depending on how many TITANIC units are in them. 3 War Dogs gives you 0, at least 1 TITANIC Knight gives 3CP and 3 TITANIC units gives you 6CP. Chaos Knights want to be in full detachments quite a bit more than Imperials do, so you’ll want to consider a detachment of two War Dogs and a larger Knight.

Traitoris Ambitions (Faction Traits)

If you have a full Superheavy detachment of Chaos Knights and they share a sub-faction, they gain the appropriate “Ambition”.

Unlike Imperial Knights, where a lot of the variety and customisation came from the wide spread of faction traits available to them, Chaos Knights have been grouped into just two larger buckets that grant more flexibility within them. These are the Iconoclast Households, twisted mirror of the Questor Imperialis, and the Infernal Households, servants of the Dark Mechanicum. On top of this, you can declare some of your Knights to be Dreadblades, the equivalent of Imperial Freeblades. Each of these offer you some quite different benefits to turbo-charge your gigantic spike-bot.

These traits are both outrageously good and a lot of the power of Chaos Knights is baked into them. Because of that, there’s far more pressure to build a full Superheavy detachment compared to Imperial Knights, where combinations of warlord traits and relics were the gateway to the most potent builds. Compounding this, Chaos has access to the hellish triple Lord Discordant Supreme Command detachment, which is basically just a better addition to most Chaos lists for ~500pts than a single Knight would be. Because of this, you overwhelmingly see Superheavy detachements of Chaos Knights rather than Superheavy Auxiliary, and thus see War Dogs on the board making up numbers proportionally more often than Armigers.

Iconoclast Households

Iconoclast Households are designed for people who want to charge their Knights straight at the enemy and reap a terrible toll in close combat. Their Ambition trait gives them two benefits in the first round of combat when they charge, get charged or heroically intervene. The first is an additional attack, which is always nice to have, but we would argue the second benefit, improving the AP of their weapons by one, is the real bonus.

Both of these buffs work exceptionally well with the “multiplier” attacks that most Knights have (Titanic Feet on the large ones and Sweep Attacks from War Dogs), as the additional attack becomes multiple extra hit rolls and the AP improves to a very impressive -3/-2 respectively. These combine to make a spectacular difference to damage output against some important targets.

When facing a normal Knight, T7 vehicles with a 3+ save can normally survive being in combat for one turn, as a round of kicking won’t quite take them down – the average damage from a series of stomp attacks is about 7W, absent any other buffs. The extra three hit rolls combined with the additional AP push the likely damage up to 11W, more than a 50% increase in output and at a range which should kill most light or medium tanks, and where even the slightest spike (or judicious use of a reroll) threatens to take out something tougher like a Wave Serpent or Tank Commander in a single round of combat. Titanic Feet are the biggest winner here, but the “strike” attack from Warglaives is a close second, as getting a 5th attack and -4AP again takes them to the point where it only takes a marginally above-average roll to start one-shotting vehicles.

The other unique trick that Iconoclasts have is access to a set of three Stratagems that can be used pre-game (up to once each, and only one on each Knight) to apply a game-long buff to one of your Knights. These are:

  • Vow of Dominance – The model is never wounded on unmodified rolls of a 1, 2 or 3.
  • Vow of Carnage – The model gets +1 attack each time it slays 10 models.
  • Vow of the Beastslayer – The model re-rolls Wound rolls of 1 against targets with 8+ Wounds

Vow of Dominance is relatively niche, but is a good thing to have access to. The vast majority of armies in the competitive sphere have Knight-killing plans involving weight of smaller attacks rather than a few big ones, and against a lot of forces this will functionally do nothing. The return of Marines to the metagame does up the number of situations where this is relevant, as against both the laser destroyer, spammed lascannons and souped up smash Captains this will do quite a bit. Given that it’s much easier to access than the Imperial Knight equivalent effect (which is tied to the relatively low-tier House Vulker) it’s a useful tool to have in the box, especially if you decide to bring just one big Knight (as otherwise they can just target a different one first).

Vow of Carnage is yet another entry in a category of effects that are frequently quite bad (snowball abilities) but unusually it’s powerful enough that there are situations where you want it – specifically when you’ve got a double gatling Knight in your list and come up against a horde list like Orks, Daemons or GSC. These can often beat Knights by simply outlasting them or bogging them down, but because the kills for this don’t have to be in melee, it’s pretty plausible that by the time you hit combat you could already have racked up a few extra attacks by mowing things down. Adding in the Iconoclast bonus means you’re suddenly tossing around 18-21 attacks on the first round of combat, which is in turn enough that every time you swing you’re probably adding another attack for the next turn. Hordes continue to be strong in the metagame, and against some of them this can be a powerful counter on the right Knight.

Vow of the Beastslayer is a tiny bit less exciting than the others, but more options are basically always good. While it isn’t flashy, it’s a nice boost to your damage output if large targets are what you need to be killing, and the fact that you can turn it on only when needed is once again very handy.

On-the-fly customisation via relics and stratagems (which in most common tournament formats can be done at the table, knowing your opponent’s list, rather than being fixed pre-event) is what made the Imperial Knight Codex so powerful, and while overall this book doesn’t provide quite such potent options for creating a jacked up turbo-Knight as Imperials do, Iconoclasts do get some of that same feeling of being able to adapt to the situation via different vows (notably switching between anti-horde or anti-vehicle via Carnage or Beastslayer).

Each of the two big household types gets four dedicated Stratagems, but the vows use up 3/4 for Iconoclasts, leaving only one “regular” stratagem – Break the Enemy Line. This is a bit underwhelming – for 2CP you can re-roll hits for all Iconoclasts attacking a given charged target in the fight phase. This is fine, but Trail of Destruction can do the same thing for a single Knight at the same cost, so for this to be worth it you need to have slammed multiple Knights into a target tough enough for you to need to use this. Realistically, that almost never comes up outside Knight-on-Knight throwdowns.

While neither faction is regularly dominating the top tables, Iconoclasts seem to be seeing slightly more successful use than Infernals, as the faction trait and vow configuration provide great support for the two best weapon loadouts on a Despoiler class knight, dual gatling and dual thermal. A single dual gatling backed up by a mix of dual thermals and War Dogs, or down the line triple dual thermal, are the most common ways to run Iconoclasts successfully.

Credit: Harvey Mantaco

Infernal Households

Infernal Households are the sinister counterparts of Questor Mechanicus knights, and to represent the mad, changeable whims of the Daemon infested Thrones Mechanicum at the heart of these beasts, they have a rather unique Ambition. Unlike pretty much all other Knights, who are “locked in” to a set of choices once a game starts, Infernal Knights can invoke a Daemonic Surge at the start of your movement phase to gain one of three bonuses until your next turn, at the cost of suffering a small amount of damage. For one mortal wound you receive a random bonus, or by paying D3 (which in our opinion you’re frequently going to want to) you get to pick between them. The choices are:

  • Daemonic Hunger – +2″ Movement, +1 to advance and charge rolls.
  • Daemonic Fortitude – +1 Toughness.
  • Daemonic Power – Pick a single ranged weapon, and add +1 to its Strength and Damage.

Daemonic Power is obviously the most eye-catching of these,  but the others aren’t slouches either. When you need to get somewhere (or squash someone) in a hurry extra movement is extremely useful to have in the back pocket, and both War Dogs and larger Knights are boosted to a theoretically relevant “break point” via the application of +1T, making them substantially tougher to take down (although for the Armigers paying 1/6 of their health to do it could be a questionable trade).

Most competitive lists that can kill you at T8 can kill you at T9 however, making the toughness boost largely irrelevant, and generally the process with these is to use the move boost if you aren’t in engagement range, and the damage boost when you are, because that’s the real money here. Daemonic Power combos absurdly well with the ever popular avenger gatling cannon, but it’s such a huge upgrade that slapping it on any weapon with a reasonable number of shots is extremely useful, especially if the change in strength makes a difference to your wound rolls. Forge World brings some additional spicy options to the table – the lightning lock on the War Dog Moirax (which has tesla-style exploding 6s) is extremely good when boosted by this, as it the Castigator bolt cannon (unsurprising as it’s “an avenger gatling cannon, but more”).

Infernal Households are exceptionally powerful against “balanced” lists, but you do need to be getting value out of the extra damage for it to be worth your while, and a lack of relevance against horde lists is a big thing holding Infernals back, although the arrival of the Moirax does help with that a bit as they’re strong horde clearers who can punch up against vehicles via Daemonic Power.

When it’s good, this Ambition absolutely rocks though – absent other modifiers, boosting up a gatling cannon improves its damage against multi-wound T8 targets about as much as Endless Fury over a normal gatling, and if the boost from S6 -> S7 improves your wound roll (which it will do against the majority of light-medium vehicles in the game, being T6 or T7) it’s better.

While Infernals don’t get the pre-game pacts that Iconoclasts do, they have access to four stratagems during the game, several of which give you very tasty options.

  • 2CP – Bind the Souls of the Defeated: Use in the Fight phase, gain a wound back on a 4+ each time you kill a model. Handy in a pinch, but would probably have been better at 1CP.
  • 3CP – Pact with the Dark Gods: The other big lure to playing Infernals after the damage boost. Lets your Knight get back up on D3 wounds at the end of the phase on a 4+. Not as good as it is when Imperium use it, as Chaos Knights don’t have an “act on full” stratagem, and also limited to one use per game per Knight. These are both relevant downsides but you’re still using this a lot of the time when a Knight goes down. You can also substantially mitigate the lack of “act on full” with Trail of Destruction – it isn’t as good, but it still pushes a Knight on its lowest bracket to being able to contribute, unless your targets are all at -2 to hit.
  • 1CP – Daemonic Ammunition: Boosts all heavy stubbers in a detachment to S5. A waste.
  • 2CP – Diabolic Rift: This was briefly horrendous on release, but immediately got toned down far enough to be pretty worthless. Activate it at the start of the Psychic phase, and any psyker within 12″ of an Infernal Knight suffers a perils on any double. Chaos Knights have a harder time getting enough CP compared to their Imperial counterparts and are very rarely going to have 2 to spend on maybe doing something.

Infernals see some play but less than Iconoclasts, which are just a bit more flexible in the targets they excel against and need less “support” than Infernals do. Because these tend to be more CP hungry than a Knight heavy list can support, it’s more common to see a Superheavy of one big Knight and two Moiraxes (which are very cheap), leaving easy space for two Battalions from other sources. Triple Despoiler lists do still see play (and triple Castigator is theoretically hilarious for anyone who can afford £600 of resin), but Iconoclasts are probably the better way to do them unless what you’re backing them up with is already loaded with push melee threats.

Dreadblades

The Chaos Knights’ counterpart to Imperial Freeblades, any Chaos Knight (including Infernals and Iconoclasts) can be nominated to be a Dreadblade. Dreadblades have access to Pacts and Damnations. Before the game, you can nominate one Dreadblade in each Superheavy detachment and choose Pacts and Damnations. You can either roll for two pacts or pick one, and roll for one damnation or pick two. Pacts are always active, Damnations only kick in if you roll equal to or over their leadership on 2d6 at the start of your turn. With Ld9 if you’re willing to spend a re-roll that’s relatively low risk, but some of them can be pretty bad if you fail, and you do need to be wary of the possibility – taking pacts isn’t cost-free.

In general, however, being a Dreadblade very nearly is costless. In order to be a Freeblade Imperial Knights lose a lot, but nominating a Chaos Knight as a Dreadblade only loses you access to the two Ambition specific relics – you don’t have to take any pacts/damnation, and can pick whether to game to game. The Iconoclast relic is pretty good, so it might be worth leaving one non-Dreadblade in those detachments, but the Infernal relic is trash and Dreadblades themselves get a good relic, the Rune of Nak’T’Graa. This gives a 5++ in melee, and also an extra pact and damnation of your choice, allowing you to go even deeper on charging up your Knight.

The Pact and Damnation choices are as follows:

Pacts

  1. Path to Glory – re-roll hits against Character or Titanic units. Obviously great if you’re up against enemy Knights, potentially a good pick on a dual thermal at that point.
  2. Thunderous Charge – After this model finishes a charge, roll a D6 for each enemy unit within 1″; on a 4+, that unit suffers D3 mortal wounds. Give this one a miss, far too marginal.
  3. Daemonic Vigour – When generated, roll a D6: On a 1-3, add 2″ to the model’s Movement. On a 4-5, improve its WS by 1. On a 6, improve its BS by 1. You want all of these. Obviously BS is usually the best, but you’ll take any of them, and this is a good “generic” pick if you have nothing else you want.
  4. Knower of Profane Secrets – Add 1 to this model’s Ld characteristic. At the start of the first battle round, if any models with this Pact are on the battlefield, gain 1 CP. Another good “generic” choice, especially as the extra Ld makes it even less likely you fluff the Damnation roll.
  5. Galvanised Hull – Weapons that shoot at the model with an AP of -1 have an AP of 0 instead. You really need to look at your opponent’s army and check whether this is relevant, but it suddenly looks a lot more interesting than it used to thanks to the new Space Marine book, providing a good shield against Aggressors in Tactical Doctrine.
  6. Arch-Fiend – This model can perform Heroic Interventions, and do so while within 6″ and can move up to 6″ when doing so.  Heroic interventions are one of the things that make Knight such a pain to deal with, and this is a good way to stack the ability to do so on a Knight you aren’t buying a Relic/Trait.

The picks here basically go:

  • Top: Daemonic Vigour, Path to Glory when it’s good.
  • Fine: Knower of Profane Secrets, Galvanised Hull when it’s good, Archfiend.
  • Trash: Thunderous Charge.

Damnations

Note that these are only active for the turn after you fail a Leadership test.

  1. Forsaken – This model can’t be affected by any stratagems (including re-rolls). Note that if this is one of your Damnations, you get to subtract 1 from your roll to see if they activate each turn. This is brutal stuff if it activates, but the fact that it substantially drops the chance of it happening makes this quite attractive. It’s especially notable that if you have the Rune of Nak’T’Graa and pick this and Knower of Profane Secrets as a Pact you only fail the roll on an 11 or 12, almost never coming up once a re-roll is in play.
  2. Warp-Rage – This model can’t Fall Back and has a BS of 6+. Horrendously terrible, never open yourself up to the risk of this unless you’re running a pure melee Knight (which, competitively, you shouldn’t be).
  3. Volatile Reactor – Roll a D6 at the end of each phase in which this model lost a wound but wasn’t destroyed; on a 4+, it loses another wound. Extremely bearble, a very safe pick.
  4. Warp Fugue – This model always fights last in the Fight phase. Ehhh. Not usually that bad – your opponent shouldn’t be letting you charge anything that can threaten a Knight, and if you’re getting charged they’re probably fighting first anyway.
  5. Single-Minded Hatred – This unit can only shoot the closest unit in the Shooting phase, and can only charge the closest unit in the Charge phase. Pretty bad, you don’t want to be locked into shooting some irrelevant trash (and if your opponent has any sense, you will be).
  6. Defiant Machine Spirit – Subtract 1 from this unit’s to Hit, Charge, and Advance rolls. Not as bad as Warp-Rage, but pretty bad for you.

For the kind of Knights you should be running, there’s a very clear divide here. Forsaken, Volatile Reactor and Warp Fugue are all tolerable, the other three really aren’t. Luckily, you never need to pick more than three of these, so the choices are fairly obvious. It basically goes:

  • If you don’t have the Rune and your opponent has no melee threats: Volatile Reactor, Warp Fugue.
  • If you don’t have the Rune and your opponent has melee threats: Volatile Reactor, Forsaken.
  • If you have the Rune: Volatile Reactor, Forsaken, Warp Fugue

Units

In terms of current competitively relevant units, Chaos Knights are pretty thin on the ground – realistically, in competitive lists at the moment you see:

  • Various Knight Despoiler Builds
  • War Dogs to fill detachments

Because the unit list is so short, we will briefly touch on why various other options don’t currently get there, although honestly a lot of it can be summed up as “this guy”:

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

In the Imperium “superfaction”, melee Knights are only really competing with Custodes Shield-Captains on jetbikes (or at least were, check out our Raven Guard review tomorrow) for push melee threats, and don’t melt to some counterattacks as easily as the Custodes do. In Chaos, 1-3 Lords Discordant absolutely clown on a large proportion of the stuff from this book – in the real world you aren’t running mono-Chaos Knights at a major, and in the superfaction Discordants just do the job of the melee builds better. The shooty builds do also have to compete against a couple of the Hellforged FW options (Purge Deredeos and double C-beam Contemptors), but can put up a slightly more compelling fight.

Compounding this is the limited access Chaos has to “relevant” small Battalions. In Imperium, a Loyal 32 (2 Company Commanders, 3 Infantry squads) and a Graia Rusty 17 (Two Tech-priest Enginseers and 15 Skitarii) make a perfect complement to filling out the rest of your army with Knights – both Battalions add something to your list (highly mobile troops from the Guard, anti-psychic + Knight repair from Graia) and come in at a bargain price (345pts total for the combined barest bones versions). Chaos has cheap Battalions, but they aren’t nearly as helpful. You can certainly do a very cheap Daemon Battalion, but it doesn’t add that much to the Knights. The Spiky 17 (Red Corsairs Battalion) adding 8 CP is great, but it’s 315 points at its very cheapest (more if you want some actual relevant units), and 15 1-wound models with boltguns don’t do a lot for you strategically.

All this combines to mean that:

  • You can’t go as deep on Knights as in Imperium. You need to spend more points on other stuff so they’re not wasted. This tends to take the Knight Tyrant builds off the table.
  • Melee Chaos Knights just aren’t a thing.
  • War Dogs aren’t valued in their own right, being solely useful as detachment filler. This tends to drive people towards the Moirax, as it’s very cheap.

We’ll have at least a quick chat about everything, but make no mistake – if you want to play Chaos Knights competitively at the moment, what you want is Despoilers and Moiraxes and not, honestly, all that much else.

War Dogs

Credit: TheChirurgeon

Moirax

In the baby Knight stakes, as has already been repeatedly said, the War Dog Moirax is king, and the lightning lock is the superior weapon choice. Coming in at a mere 155 points this model is in that nice zone of bring pretty good against everything, especially if you’re running them as Infernals. With the standard War Dog statline of 12W, T7, 3+/5++ and the ability to ignore move/shoot penalties on Heavy weapons, taking the lightning locks (H6, S6, AP-2, D1, 2 extra hits on unmodified 6 to hit) gives you a mobile unit that can put at least a bit of hurt into hordes and tougher targets. Souping up one of the guns as Infernals further improves this, giving you something that’s frankly a bit frightening against the current popularity of Intercessors by boosting it to D2. The lock isn’t the only relevant gun on them – if you’re not running Infernals and expect to hit a lot of 2W stuff the volkite veauglaire is also a serviceable choice. The graviton pulsar isn’t totally horrible if you’re a bit of a gambler, but sticking to one of the previous two is probably safer. If you’re running as Infernals taking one lock and one siege claw/cleanser is also perfectly fine, as it takes the cost down a bit and give you some hefty melee threat.

Skip the C-beam cannon though. Unlike the other weapons you can’t double up on it, and in order to maximise it it requires you to be out of range for whatever else you have – a great way to waste points

Moiraxes are easily the best War Dog, so if you want to build up Chaos Knight detachments in a serious way you should consider paying the resin tax.

Warglaives

Stealing the Imperial terminology, these are the War Dogs with a reaper chain cleaver and thermal spear. These should be fine, especially in Iconoclasts which soup the melee attacks up to ridiculous heights, but sadly they are the most acutely shut-out by the Lord Discordant, as they weigh in at about the same price and for a push melee threat the Lord is just orders of magnitude superior. That sadly leaves these without much of a home – Moiraxes do a better job of filling a detachment, and you don’t want them for their own sake.

Poor doggies.

Helverins

The dual autocannon War Dogs are have a bit more of a purpose than their Warglaive brethren, mostly because the Chaos version of Skyreaper Protocols has “modern” re-rolls, so is a lot better against anything packing negative hit mods. At the time we reviewed the book this made these seem like an obvious choice to fill out Infernal detachments, but since then the Moirax has showed up and made a much more compelling (i.e. cheaper) case for that slot. Given the guns don’t actually need help to be good against their prime targets (planes) you do still see them occasionally filling out detachments, but if we’re brutally honest it’s mostly from people who haven’t paid the resin tax yet.

Knight Despoiler

Credit: WhiteOutMouse

The Knight Despoiler is easily the best datasheet in the book – it’s the “standard” Questoris knight from the Imperium list, but way more customisable; notably, you can take two of the same gun, which lets you specialise your Knight and stack pre-game buffs relevant to what you need to do in a given game. Some of the costs have also been shifted, some in a way that hurt (avengers) and some that help (thermals).

There are, roughly, four currently competitive builds for these.

Dual Thermal Iconoclasts

We called it. It turns out that 397 points is way too cheap to get a full Knight body with relevant shooting on the board. Who knew? This build props up the faction competitively, as you’re very heavily drawn to aiming for three Questoris bodies and just how cheap this is helps make that fit. Like any D6 shot weapon the thermal cannon suffers from variance, but two of them helps flatten that variance out a lot, giving you a shooting platform that will happily take a vehicle off the board a turn, especially if you commit stratagems to it. Given these are most often seen as Iconoclast, that’s backed up by a hefty melee output, and the option of taking Vow of the Beastslayer to amp up the thermals further when there’s a mechanised list against you.

This option is super good, and offers something unique compared to Imperials. It gets a lot of airtime.

Dual Avenger Iconoclasts

Where dual thermal is the quantity, this is the quality. Having one of these as a Dreadblade Iconoclast gives you huge flexibility to turn it into a murder engine appropriate to the situation. If you see enemy planes, you give it the Helm of Warp Sight, and it tears them from the sky. If you see enemy hordes, you take Vow of Carnage and katamari this forwards until it can stomp out entire units in a single phase. If you see enemy vehicles, taking Vow of the Beastslayer means it at least competes – and if they’re titanic or characters, you slap on the Path to Glory pact for hit re-rolls.

You can basically only afford one of these, but they’re real good.

Avenger/Thermal Infernals

Basically every Infernal Knight should either have an avenger gatling cannon or be a Castigator, and real play experience has generally suggested that the thermal is cheap enough that you always want it over the melee choices, so this is Infernal option 1 – the slightly cheaper one. Unless you’re very confident that there will be a lot of other Knights or T8 vehicles this is probably the safer bet, as it’s 37pts cheaper than the battle cannon option.

Avenger/Battle Cannon Infernals

If you’re super sure that Knight equivalent targets are what you’re up against, this can be worth it in Infernals, as pushing the battle cannon to S9 and adding 1D to its many shots is pretty excellent. It’s also quite a bit better against pure horde thanks to 2x the average shots on the second main gun and an extra heavy stubber. Effectively, if you’re confident of hitting certain metagames this is a perfectly defensible choice, but the avenger/thermal choice outclasses it on an “average” case.

Top Guns

A final point on the Despoiler is that is has access to the same top gun choices as Imperials have, but they’re generally a lot rarer. This comes back to the points made earlier about where the payoff lies in list building. Generally, Imperium are aiming to minimise the points spent on everything else to free up Knight points, whereas Chaos are trying to spend the minimum points possible to pull a valid Knight detachment together. The ironstorm pod is still a fine choice if you have points free, but as you’ll see when we get to lists, even they tend not to make the cut.

 

Knight Tyrant

Neither build of Knight Tyrant (i.e. Castellans and Valiants) sees any competitive play currently.

The Castellan is totally disqualified on cost. At 700pts and without some of the stuff that made Imperial ones truly ridiculous, it just doesn’t get there. If you did run one you’d probably want to go Infernal and use the buff on the plasma decimator, but it isn’t competitively worth it.

The Valiant basically falls down on those grounds as well. The goal with a Chaos Knight detachment is to sneak in three full fledged LOWs as cheaply as possible so you still have room for some Lords Discordant or a Daemon bomb, and spending 600pts on a big hefty boi just doesn’t contribute to that. In more casual games it’s probably be fine as either Infernal (to get the damage boost on the flamer) or Iconoclast (taking the Veil of Merengard and re-roll 1s to wound against vehicles so the Harpoon is one-shotting a tank a turn), but it’s done nothing on the top tables.

Knight Desecrator

The Knight Desecrator’s main draw is giving re-roll 1s to War Dogs. For it to be good, therefore, War Dogs need to be relevant in their own right, and as we’ve discussed they unfortunately aren’t.

If you really, really wanted to use one of these the way to do it would be:

  • Stack as many Moiraxes as possible, given they’re the best War Dog.
  • Take the Diamonas relic – it takes its main gun from terrible to OK.

We can’t really stress enough though – this is not a competitive choice.

Knight Rampager

These are slightly more expensive than a melee-built Despoiler for a marginal benefit. A melee built Despoiler is not good and neither, sadly, are these. We’re honestly not quite sure what they were thinking costing these, and the hope would be  that they drop substantially come Chapter Approved this year.

The Forge World Knights

Credit: Killer_Bees!

Since the Chaos Knights book dropped, a completely revised set of Forge World Knight rules has been published. You can find our hot-take review of them here.

Other than the Moirax, which we’ve already discussed, there’s only really one relevant option coming out of this. The Atropos and Magaera are both sufficiently “fine” that they’ll serve you well in less serious games, but the only option for a big Knight that has top table potential is the Castigator.

Infernal Cerastus Knight Castigator

The Castigator is great, and we strongly suspect it’s real money cost that’s keeping them off the table, not viability. At 430pts, these things are totally monstrous as Infernals, mostly because they have an avenger gatling cannon with four more shots strapped to one arm. Combined with the slightly tougher profile and the fact that they have a really very tasty melee weapon (which allows you to take 8 S16 AP-3 D3 swings), slapping down three of these as Infernals seems like it would be on a par with other successful Chaos Knight strategies. However, because Chaos Knights aren’t top, top tier, very few people are willing to drop a huge amount of money on resin to access one of their better builds, so these aren’t seen.

Stratagems

This incredible knight comes from Thomas Coltau Bærentsen (https://www.instagram.com/coltaupainting/?hl=da)

The Chaos Knight stratagem list is pretty similar to the Imperial one, but held back by the fact that very few of the melee builds are worth taking.

We’ve already covered the Infernal/Iconoclast stratagems earlier, so take a look in their section if you’re after those.

The Good Ones

  • 2CP – Spiteful Demise: Explode on a 4+ rather than a 6+. This is good in Imperials and even better here because plenty of Chaos Knights want to be right in your opponent’s face.
  • 1CP – Skyreaper Protocols: Covered earlier, gives a Helverin War Dog re-rolls against fliers. Very good if you have one in your list, but tragically worded so it doesn’t cross-apply to Moiraxes.
  • 1/3CP – Rotate Ion Shields: +1 to your invulnerable save to a max of 4++. Still amazing.
  • 1/3CP Corrupted Heirlooms: Extra Relics. Good.
  • 1/3CP Tyrannical Court: Extra Warlord Traits. Good, but a lot less good than in Imperials because the traits are less powerful.
  • 2CP – Full Tilt: Advance and charge. As great as always.
  • 2CP – Trail of Destruction: One of the best reasons to be Chaos Knights, granting re-rolls to hit using the “good” wording (i.e. “can re-roll hits” not “re-roll failed hits”) for a phase at a very reasonable price

Trail, Rotate and Full Tilt are your bread and butter here. That is, at least, a pretty nice set of stuff, even if it’s fairly boring.

The Rest

  • 2CP – Ion Aegis: A Knight Tyrant can grant a a 5++ in a 6″ “wholly within” bubble instead of moving. Imperial ones can do this too. They don’t. Moving on.
  • 1CP – Thunderstomp: Deal D3 MW to an infantry or swarm unit on a 4+ after fighting. Very rarely worth the point.
  • 1CP – Pack Dogs: If one War Dog makes a charge, others get a re-roll. You won’t have enough melee War Dogs to make it worth it.
  • 1CP – Chainsweep: After fighting with a reaper chainsword, roll for every model within 1″ and do a MW on a 6. You aren’t bringing a reaper chainsword anyway, and you need to be appallingly heavily mobbed for this to be good.
  • 1CP – Death Grip: Allows you to try and crush someone to death with a thunderstrike gauntlet. Would be fine if you ever wanted to bring one, but you don’t
  • 3CP – Daemonic Guidance System: Shoot a shieldbreaker missile at a character without LOS. This would only really be good if Tyrant Castellans popping Trail of Destruction were common. Since they aren’t, it’s terrible.
  • 1CP – Devastating Reach: A large number of words for “you can fight a unit on a ruin”. Fine when it’s relevant if you can remember it exists.
  • 1CP – Titanic Duel: Play a little bluff game to maybe get some extra attacks against other Titanic units. Cute, but probably not super relevant.

Warlord Traits

Warlord traits are one of the best part of the Imperial Knights book, and one of the most disappointing here. Some of these are fine, but whereas Imperials are chomping at the bit to add them, these are just OK.

The traits are:

  • Infernal Quest – Basically gives the Warlord ObSec, and makes the WL count as 10 models if both units have ObSec-style rules.
  • Harbinger of Scrapcode – At the start of the Movement phase, roll a D6 for every enemy vehicle within 6″. On a 4+, that vehicle takes 1 mortal wound.
  • Knight Diabolus – Add 1 to this model’s Attacks characteristic.
  • Warp-Haunted Hull – The Warlord can deny one power per psychic phase, and if it takes mortal wounds from a psychic power, roll a D6 for each wound; on a 5+ it doesn’t lose a wound.
  • Eager for the Kill – Add 1 to your Warlord’s Advance and Charge rolls, and add 1 to their Attacks while they are wholly within your opponent’s deployment zone.
  • Aura of Terror – When a charge roll is made for an enemy unit within 12″ of this model, subtract 1 from the result. Additionally, enemy units that take Morale tests within 12″ of this model roll 2D6 and must discard the lowest die.

The winners here are “Knight Diabolus”, “Eager for the Kill” and “Warp-Haunted Hull”. Knight Diabolus is a nice flat bonus that’s always neat to have around, and while Eager for the Kill is a distinctly weaker “Landstrider”, if you have a melee Knight it’s still good.

Warp-Haunted Hull is very situational but extremely good in some matchups. Bursting Knights down with psychic mortal wounds is either plan A or plan B for a lot of armies, and giving your lead Knight resilience to this and the ability to deny a key power like Doom is big money.

Finally, in some games Infernal Quest can be OK – Knights can struggle to hold objectives, so if you’re heavily in on them giving one ObSec can be useful.

Relics

Much like warlord traits, these are vastly less powerful than the Imperial ones, and are made more so by the fact that several plausibly good choices (the melee weapons) are never seen as no suitable Knights get competitive play. There are a few real gems here though

The Good Ones

  • The Veil of Medrengard: Non-Dreadblade Iconoclast only. 4++ against shooting. Definitely fine to throw on pretty much any Iconoclast.
  • Helm of Warp-Sight: Ignore hit penalties. Easily the best relic, as it makes you a ridiculous counter to hit modifiers, pretty much whatever you’re up against. If you see a plane, take this, and rejoice that your faction choice has paid off.
  • The Rune of Nak’tagraa: Dreadblade only. Pick an extra Pact and Damnation, and gain a 5++. Really good if you think you’re going to get attacked heavily by high-AP melee options. Often a good add for a Dreadblade Iconoclast against Genestealer Cults – gives you a shot of living through a rocksaw attack round.

There are three good relics. Luckily, you will usually have three good Knights, and they will often be a mix of Iconoclasts and Dreadblade Iconoclasts. Given that, these fit in well.

The Sometimes OK

  • Khornate Target: It’s some kind of shield, we think? Which is ironic, because this turns off both your invulns and those of anything you’re fighting once per game. This is absolutely horrendous for your opponent when it’s good, and is exactly the kind of relic you want to flex to when the time is right.
  • Tzeentchian Pyrothrone: Your Knight is a psyker that can Smite and Deny. Generally if your opponent has good psykers you want this out somewhere. You also always explode if you die from a perils, which is hilarious, especially as it doesn’t say the standard MWs from a perils explosion don’t go off too.
  • Putrid Carapace of Nurgle: When you pass a save in the Fight phase, inflict a Mortal Wound back on a 4+. This is actually huge in some matchups – if you find yourself up against horde Orks this can be a devastating discouragement to them trying to swamp your Knight. This is also one of the very few draws to Forge World Knights – a melee invuln (which some of them have) considerably broadens the matchups where this is applicable, as unfortunately some of the other popular horde lists out there (GSC, for example), kill big targets with a few high-AP spikes out of large units rather than sheer weight of dice.
  • The Quicksilver Throne of Slaanesh: +1 to advances/charges, always fights first. A neat mobility boost that can also occasionally catch your opponent out.

Weirdly, all four god-specific relics fall into this bucket, with Slaanesh’s being the closest to making it up to the top tier on its own merits.

The Rest

  • The Blasphemous Engine: Non-Dreadblade Infernal only. Doubles your remaining wounds for determining profile. This ability is quite potent on House Hawkshroud, but it’s generally less good on only a single model, because realistically any tuned army is going to manage to burst down one Knight.
  • The Diamonas. The one relic gun. It upgrades a laser destructor to be Heavy 3, Strength 16, making the Knight Desecrator into an enemy Knight-hunting badass and also turning it into a unit you might actually want to sit back and play War Daddy to your War Dogs with. You should always take this if you have a Desecrator out, the normal gun isn’t even in the same league as this monster.
  • The Tyrant’s Banner: Get a CP on a 5+ each battle round, and boost the leadership of Chaos units within 6″. The Knight giving itself +1 Ld can be relevant against some psychic powers and when you’re rolling for Damnations, but it’s not enough to make this good.
  • The Teeth That Hunger: Relic reaper chainsword – AP-4 and you get +1A with it, but you roll a dice and take a MW on a 1 at the end of any Battle Round where it didn’t kill something. Would be great if you ever saw reaper chainswords.
  • Bound Varangian Pyrogeist: Ranged attacks get +1AP on a 6 to wound. Doesn’t do enough for any build.
  • The Traitor’s Mark: something something enemy leadershi-zzzzzzzzz.
  • The Gauntlet of Ascension: A thunderstrike gauntlet that doesn’t have -1 and re-rolls hits and wounds. Totally bonkers if you have big targets to kill, and if you have a dual melee Knight this is definitely the pick over The Teeth that Hunger – it’s way better.

The rest of the relics are either trash or are buffs for a weapon that doesn’t see use.

Competitive Soup

Normally we try and promote monofaction lists in these, but neither Chaos or Imperial Knights are really designed for this; they perform best backed up by other options that can cover their weaknesses in holding objectives and controlling space.

With this in mind, we’ve first pulled out two lists from the recent LGT that made successful use of Chaos Knights, and will go over a quick mono-faction list at the end.

Chaos Soup – Single Knight

This is the list that Louis Fitzsimmons piloted to a 4-1 record and 23rd at the LGT.

Chaos Soup with Chaos Knights - Click to Expand

Total: 1,998 points, 7 CP

Chaos Space Marines Spearhead Detachment (914 points, 0 CP)
Legion: The Purge
Specialist Detachment: Soulforged Pack (-1 CP)
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker w/Autocannon, Techno-virus Injector, Mark of Nurgle
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker w/Autocannon, Techno-virus Injector, Mark of Nurgle
HS: Hellforged Deredeo Dreadnought w/Butcher cannon array, Greater Havoc launcher, Twin heavy bolter, Mark of Nurgle
HS: Hellforged Deredeo Dreadnought w/Butcher cannon array, Greater Havoc launcher, Twin heavy bolter, Mark of Nurgle
HS: Hellforged Deredeo Dreadnought w/Butcher cannon array, Greater Havoc launcher, Twin heavy bolter, Mark of Nurgle

Thousand Sons Battalion Detachment (600 points, +4 CP)
Relics of the Thousand Sons (-1 CP)
HQ: Ahriman
HQ: Sorcerer in Terminator Armour with Familiar, Force Stave, Inferno Combi-Bolter (Warlord – High Magister), Relic: Dark Matter Crystal
Troops: Cultists x10 w/Autogun
Troops: 23x Tzaangors w/Blades, Brayhorn, Twistbray w/blades
Troops: 16x Tzaangors w/Blades, Twistbray w/blades

Chaos Knights Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment (485 points)
Lord of War: Knight Despoiler w/2x Avenger Gatling cannon + Heavy Flamer, Heavy stubber, Dreadblade, Iconoclast Household

This list takes a bunch of the best Chaos options (Ahriman, Discolords, Tzaangors, Purge Deredeos) and backs them up with the most potent solo Knight build – the Iconoclast dual gatling Dreadblade. This list already has melee threats more than covered, so the Knight is happy to forego the Iconoclast melee buff in favour of being customised to suit whatever matchup it’s in via vows, pacts and relics. While the Deredeos help a lot with anti-air, the top end of the LGT metagame was very heavily skewed towards flyer spam so being able to take the Helm of Warp Sight is great. At the other end, there were also a lot of Primaris Marines (where dual gatling is just generically great) and Genestealer Cults (where anti-horde choices and the Rune of Nak’t’graa are good), so this solo build has quite a lot to offer, despite losing out on ambitions.

Another Chaos Soup List

This is the list that Euan Bedford-Cooper piloted to a 3-1-1 record and 70th at the LGT.

Chaos Soup with Chaos Knights - Click to Expand

Total: 2,000 points, 10 CP

Chaos Space Marines Supreme Command Detachment (480 points, 0 CP)
Legion: Flawless Host
Specialist Detachment: Soulforged Pack (-1 CP)
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker w/Autocannon, Techno-virus Injector, Mark of Slaanesh
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker w/Autocannon, Techno-virus Injector, Mark of Slaanesh
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker w/Autocannon, Techno-virus Injector, Mark of Slaanesh

Thousand Sons Outrider Detachment (241 points, +1 CP)
Relics of the Thousand Sons (-1 CP)
HQ: Ahriman on Disc of Tzeentch
FA: Chaos Spawn
FA: Chaos Spawn
FA: Chaos Spawn

Chaos Knights Super-Heavy Detachment (1,279 points, +6 CP)
Household: Iconoclast
Lord of War: Knight Despoiler w/2x Thermal Cannons, Heavy stubber
Lord of War: Knight Despoiler w/2x Thermal Cannons, Heavy stubber
Lord of War: Knight Despoiler w/2x Avenger Gatling Cannons, heavy flamer, Dreadblade

If you want to go deeper on Chaos Knights in soup, this is the way to do it (we did in fact have this detachment in our codex review). You get all the benefits from the previous list from the Dreadblade with dual gatlings, and two ridiculously cheap dual thermal Knights to add some anti-tank threat and more weight of attacks in melee.

It’s both terrifying and depressing that both this list and the previous one choose to use Lords Discordant as their melee threat in a list with Knight detachments, which should really hammer home how fantastic they are. Combining them with Ahriman for Warptime is a popular choice (Wings came up against another Chaos Knights list at the event that did the same thing). Hopefully come Chapter Approved GW will give melee Chaos Knights the point cut they deserve (especially the Rampager, a cool dude that needs more airtime).

Competitive Mono Codex

What if we really, really wanted to go mono-codex though? Well, happily the Moirax gives us a slot filler at a sufficiently bargain price that we can pull together something that just about looks interesting 

Edit: We’re dumb, and the initial version of this list wasn’t legal because it fell foul of Ro3. Chaos Knights are basically just kind of screwed on building monofaction at the moment because all their “Questoris” knights use the same datasheet.

Monofaction Chaos Knights - Click to Expand

Total: 2000 points, 12CP

Chaos Knights Super-Heavy Detachment (1,279 points, +6 CP)
Household: Iconoclast
Lord of War: Knight Rampager
Lord of War: Knight Despoiler w/2x thermal cannons, heavy stubber
Lord of War: Knight Despoiler w/2x avenger gatling cannons, heavy flamer, Dreadblade

Chaos Knights Super-Heavy Detachment (721 points, +3 CP)
Household: Infernal
Lord of War: Knight Castigator
Lord of War: War Dog Moirax, siege claw, rad cleanser, Lightning Lock
Lord of War: War Dog Moirax, siege claw, rad cleanser, Lightning Lock

The problem with only having two good units (the Moirax and the Despoiler) is that you run face first into the Rule of Three. We would rather have a second dual thermal knight in the Iconoclast detachment and a “Warden” built despoiler instead of the Castigator in the Infernal force. As it is, we have to take a Rampager just to make this fit together, which we aren’t super happy about. The whole of this army is basically pulling in the right direction – you have a lot of nasty shooting and can throw down in melee too – but it’s inferior to what you can put together with the tools that Imperial knights have.

Honour Through Destruction

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide!  This should give you an idea of what you can do with Chaos Knights, but note that there are many different ways to use Chaos Knights and combine them with the broader Chaos forces. Experiment and feel free to change things up. As ever, if you think we’ve missed anything, or got anything wrong, then hit us up at contact@goonhammer.com or over on our Facebook Page, and we’ll do our best to respond.

 

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